1,2 • Hamlet’s isolation within Elsinore depicted • His dislike of Claudius highlighted • His misery and longing for death revealed in his first soliloquy
‘A little more than kin, and less than kind.’ • ‘more than kin’ now he’s both Claudius’ nephew and his stepson. ‘Less than kind’ in two senses: not kindly disposed to Claudius, nor does he think he is of the same kind.
‘ I am too much i’ th’ sun.’ • He is having too much of his uncle calling him sun, and also of the Sun. Hamlet, we will soon discover, longs for death- to be out of the sun.
‘Seems Madam? Nay, it is: I know not seems:’ • This speech develops the theme of appearance and reality. Hamlet reacts furiously, feeling that his mother is implying that his mourning is playacting. • Hamlet feels it is his mother who must have been acting the bereaved widow just a week or two previously.
O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Or that the Everlasting had not fix'dHis canon 'gainst self-slaughter! • Hamlet reveals his deep anguish and melancholy. He wishes to die, but suicide is viewed as a sin. He desires to dissolve into dew- an impermanent substance. • Contrast established between what is seen as divine and what is seen as earthly (soiled flesh).
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden, That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. • Image of an untended garden leading to disease and corruption. Shakespeare’s imagery suggests that incestuous marriage is a violation of nature, which creates disease in the King’s court.
So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly. • Juxtaposition used to highlight difference between Old Hamlet and Claudius. Hyperion-the Titan god of light, represents honour, virtue, and regality -- all traits belonging to Hamlet's father, the true King of Denmark. • Satyrs, the half-human and half-beast companions of the wine-god Dionysus, represent lasciviousness and overindulgence, much like Hamlet's usurping uncle Claudius.
Act One Scenes 4-5 • Hamlet joins the watch with Horatio and Marcellus • The Ghost appears and signals to Hamlet to follow him. • The Ghost tells Hamlet he is the spirit of his dead father, and orders revenge on his murderer, Claudius. • Hamlet accepts his instruction and vows his friends to secrecy.
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned, Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked or charitable, • Hamlet uses three antithetical phrases to highlight the uncertain identity/ moral status of the ghost. • Antithesis: rhetorical contrast of words by means of parallel arrangement of words, phrase or sentences. • ‘Action not words’; ‘they promised freedom and provided slavery’
Marcellus: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” • This refers both to the idea that the ghost is an ominous omen for Denmark and to the larger theme of the connection between the moral legitimacy of a ruler and the health of the state as a whole. The ghost is a visible symptom of the rottenness of Denmark created by Claudius’s crime. • This continues the motif of Denmark’s decay. • Motif- a recurrent thematic element.
'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark Is by a forgèd process of my death Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth, The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown. Metaphor used to highlight how Denmark is infected/ corrupted by Claudius’ actions. Serpent is symbolic here. Represents the destruction of Adam’s happiness in the Garden of Eden and the introduction of sin into the world. Claudius is ‘the serpent’ who now wears the crown.
The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite,That ever I was born to set it right! • Image created of the state of affairs in Denmark being like a dislocated shoulder/ disfigured body. • In this rhyming couplet, Hamlet reveals his lack of confidence in his ability to correct matters. • Rhyming couplet: a pair of lines which rhyme with each other.
To Be or Not to Be • Unlike other soliloquies, this speech does consider the play’s action. • Concentrates on general philosophical musing on some of the play’s main themes- particularly the moral legitimacy of suicide in an unbearably painful world.
To be, or not to be: that is the question: • To live, or to die. This is the problem/ question that Hamlet considers in this soliloquy.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? Here Hamlet considers whether it is better to suffer life’s misfortunes ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, or to actively seek to end one’s troubles. The metaphor ‘to take arms against a sea of troubles, /And by opposing end them’ compares the idea of hopeless resistance to life’s ills to the futility of fighting against the sea. This captures Hamlets feelings of being unequal to the task that has been assigned to him.
To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. Hamlet compares death to sleep and thinks of the end to suffering, pain, and uncertainty it might bring. However, ‘Devoutly’ is a religious word, which suggests that there is more than simply an end to suffering to be considered.
To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: Hamlet alters his metaphor of sleep to include the possibility of dreaming; he says that the dreams that may come in the sleep of death are daunting, that they “must give us pause.” ‘Rub’ – obstacle This mortal coil- this earthly life/ physical body/ earthly suffering
there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; • Hamlet decides that it is this uncertainty and fear about the nature of the afterlife that makes us stretch out the suffering of life so long.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, A powerful metaphor which depicts Time as whipping suffering humans and exposing us to scorn. In Elizabethan times, criminals were whipped in public. This image is being used to introduce the sufferings that humans would endure in their lives.
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? • Here Hamlet lists a series of the scorns of times, ranging from lovesickness to hard work to political oppression, and asks who would choose to bear those miseries if he could bring himself peace with a knife. • ‘Quietus’ -peace • ‘Bodkin’ - dagger
But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Hamlet decides that it is terror /dread of the afterlife which makes people submit to the suffering of their lives rather than go to another state of existence which might be even more miserable.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. Consideration of the uncertainty of the afterlife leads to excessive moral sensitivity, which makes action impossible. This mirrors Hamlet’s own situation where uncertainty over the Ghost’s identity leads him to contemplation and prevents him from acting.
Act Three • Due to betrayals by Ophelia and Gertrude, Hamlet develops an unpleasant misogyny: • “I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God has given you one face and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on ’t. It hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages. Those that are married already, all but one, shall live. The rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go.”
Act Three Scene Three • In his only soliloquy, Claudius reveals his guilt over the killing of his brother: “Oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven. It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t, A brother’s murder. Pray can I not.”
Hamlet does not kill Claudius because he is praying and his soul would go to heaven. The dramatic irony is that Claudius is unable to pray. “Now might I do it pat. Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do ’t. And so he goes to heaven. And so am I revenged.—That would be scanned. A villain kills my father, and, for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven.”
Gertrude • Hamlet reveals to her that he is only acting mad (his antic disposition). He also reveals his fury at her incestuous marriage to Claudius. “Mother, for love of grace, Lay not that flattering unction to your soul That not your trespass but my madness speaks. It will but skin and film the ulcerous place Whilst rank corruption, mining all within, Infects unseen.”
Laertes • Unlike Hamlet, he wants vengeance wit no regards to the consequences: “To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation. To this point I stand That both the worlds I give to negligence. Let come what comes, only I’ll be revenged Most thoroughly for my father.”